REVIEW: Newton Faulkner (*****)
Bogbain Farm, near Inverness
Wednesday, October 25
On a night like this, you remember just how lovely a venue Bogbain Farm can be.
Forget that the barn was uncomfortably stuffed – a 250 capacity was just too many people. I spent large portions of the gig stood just outside the doorway of the barn looking in like a street urchin outside a sweetshop window. Those are teething problems that can be learned from.
Forget that many who turned up to the barn seemed to have been engaging in a drinking contest to the death before the show – at one point I witnessed a young woman pour a plastic glass of fruit cider over her own head.
See, Bogbain is stunning on a night like this – it’s warm and intimate, with log fires burning around the bar area, and the lights on the barn providing the perfect ambience for a gig like this – a singer-songwriter, an acoustic guitar, and a catalogue of songs the crowd are desperate to hear.
Before Newton, there was an enjoyable support slot from young Glasgow singer-songwriter Calum Frame – with catchy enough pop songs and the tenacity to cover Purple Rain solo.
His support act across the whole Highland tour, Calum unleashed both barrels of the famous Glaswegian patter – there was a warm easiness to his interactions with the crowd (as they slowly pickled themselves in gin).
Half an hour after Calum leaves the stage, Newton takes it – his shorter dreadlocks tied up into a bun. This is his second visit to Inverness this year, and his six-millionth (roughly) all in all, and it shows – in the best way possible. Newton is relaxed from the second he takes the stage, bantering cheerfully with the crowd.
As for his songs – what songs! You forget when you’re listening to one of his records just how magnificent a musician Newton Faulkner is – his wonderfully percussive style of guitar playing reverberates through your bones right from set opener To the Light.
Other songs leave you agape at just how good he is – introducing new song Been Here Before as the “hardest song for me to play – it’s why I’m playing it early,” Newton melds the chords and the percussion together into a staggeringly intricate whole. On the album it sounds like two separate musicians, but to hear Newton play it by himself – and to see how he does it – is mindboggling.
As he plucked and hammered and looped his way through an hour-and-a-half long set that featured old classics – his soulful voice soaring gracefully through Teardrop, Dream Catch Me and set-closer Write it on Your Skin – and a host of tracks from new album Hit the Ground Running, you began to get an idea of why Newton visits the Highlands so much.
By song two – Hit the Ground Running opener Smoked Ice Cream – the crowd are singing along with every word of the chorus. This is an audience that loves him and what he does.
And from the ease he displays in this gig, and how intimate this set feels – his voice and his guitar echoing slightly around the old stone walls of Bogbain Farm – it’s clear that the feeling is mutual.
Newton Faulkner's new album, Hit the Ground Running, is out now. For more information, go to www.newtonfaulkner.com